Charitable State Registration
The majority of states require registration of organizations that plan to solicit charitable contributions there. The above site provides links to the state offices for each state and the District of Columbia that regulate charitable organizations and charitable solicitations.
Most states (35 of the 39 that require registration) allow the use of the Unified Registration Statement (URS). Organizations must still file with each state, but the URS can be used instead of many separate forms.
It is advisable to call each state's contact person (listed on the site) to ensure that the information for that state is up to date before filing.
Pros and Cons
The following information was taken from the Contact a Group Family Action Pack, a guide published in the United Kingdom, but many of the factors described are applicable to and/or have equivalents to charitable registration in the United States, as well:
ADVANTAGES OF REGISTRATION
- Relief from income tax for income derived from investments (e.g. property, shares, and securities) where the income is applied for charitable purposes.
- Many charitable trusts and foundations as well as some businesses and corporations will only give to registered charities.
- The public perceives registered charities as being more credible than organisations which are not registered. This may assist you in fundraising.
DISADVANTAGES OF REGISTRATION
- Once registered the group will be required to complete more paperwork. You will need to send annual updates to the Charity Commission. Most groups will also be required to hold Annual General Meetings.
- Charity trustees may not generally benefit personally, whether through receipt of a salary or of profits or otherwise.
- Trustees can be held personally liable for misuse of funds.
- The objects of a charity must be exclusively charitable. They cannot, except in certain circumstances, carry out or fund activities or undertake permanent trading which falls outside those objects.
- You will need a membership system for the group which people will have to actively sign up to.
These are some of the issues which you need to consider before you make a decision. It often comes down to the trade off between ongoing bureaucracy versus lack of status (with potential donors and suppliers).
Companies Providing Registration Services
- Advocacy Organizations List
- Advocacy Resources
- Assistive Technology
- Children's Hopes and Dreams Foundations
- Consumer Medical Information
- Emergency Preparedness
- Fundraising Appeals
- General Resources
- Information about Rare Genetic Diseases
- Matching Resources
- Meet Your Neighbors & Organizations
- Resources for Nonprofits
- Sibling Support